There aren’t many left now. Here on a bare prairie hilltop near where I live stands one of the last of the one-room schoolhouses.
Located near the now-vanished town of Majorville, Alberta is the Liberty School, built in 1909. I tried to look up the history of this particular school but found only references to other similar schools in the area. The stories from teachers who worked in such schools were fascinating. Amy Corbiell, a relative of one of my neighbours, taught at a nearby school in the 1930s. Imagine the scene on the prairies back then:
“Some days when the dust blew I remember it got so dark the pupils couldn’t see to work. I would light our one little coal-oil lamp and read to them until I could safely send them home.”
The lone teacher would live either in the home of one of the students. Or she would be put up in what we would now call a shack – the teacherage – next to the school. She would attend to the students ages 6 to 16, keep the pot-bellied stove going, bring in water from the hand pump outside, perhaps play the piano (if there was one), and organize the big annual Christmas concert. There might be a barn nearby for the kids to shelter their horses. Yes, they really did ride to school each day. It was a hard life by today’s soft standards.
But as Helen Courtney, another teacher from the era, remarked in her reminiscences,
“The 1930s are remembered as the depression years, the years of crop failures, and blizzard-like dust storms. They were also the times when neighbours helped neighbours, people shared what they had, extended kindness and friendship and looked hopefully toward a better future.”
My photo, taken under bright moonlight on August 4, shows the Big Dipper over the little schoolhouse, and a summer thunderstorm rolling across the far horizon.
— Alan, August 15, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer